UK urged to improve cycling infrastructure to help deal with coronavirus

A number of industry leaders have written a letter to the Government calling for the UK to make it easier to travel by bike

(Image credit: In Pictures via Getty Images)

Cycling industry leaders have called for the UK Government to improve biking infrastructure to help citizens abide by social distancing guidelines and allow more people to commute to work by bike once lockdown ends.

Will Butler-Adams, the CEO of Brompton Bicycle, has written a letter to Chris Heaton-Harris MP, the Minister of State responsible for Cycling & Walking, which has been co-signed by British Cycling, Cycling UK, the London Cycling Campaign and Dr Ian Basnett the Director of Public Health at Barts Health NHS Trust.

The letter calls for Heaton-Harris to encourage "local highway authorities to consider implementing temporary initiatives for cycling and walking" as they argue many streets around the UK "are not currently fit for purpose during the pandemic".

Butler-Adams says temporary cycling infrastructure has already been rolled out successfully in New Zealand as well as a number of cities in the USA, Canada and Germany. The number of key workers currently choosing to cycle or walk to work to avoid public transport, where the risk of coronavirus transmission is higher, is rising, a trend that could be mirrored by the wider population once the lockdown is relaxed.

>>> France offers each cyclist €50 for bike repairs once lockdown ends

"We welcome your Department’s statement made yesterday, clarifying that local authorities have powers to take initiatives of this kind using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders and similar procedures. Our organisations would, however, urge you to go further and provide a clear positive ministerial statement encouraging local highway authorities to consider implementing temporary initiatives of this kind," the letter reads. "That would give local authorities the confidence to quickly implement measures, enabling safe cycling and walking within the Government’s social distancing guidelines.

"In discussion with NHS colleagues, we know that these measures would have a positive impact in encouraging more health workers to cycle to work and have the added benefit of providing safe segregation or protection from motor traffic.

"Finally, post the current lockdown restrictions, a large proportion of the UK population will again be moving around towns and cities, but hesitant to use public transport where there is a greater risk of transmission. In order to mitigate against a second wave influx of Coronavirus cases, we feel it prudent to plan ahead and implement these temporary measures now for key workers but also to allow the wider population to travel by bicycle or by foot in the short term as lockdown restrictions lift.

"We ask for your prompt and public encouragement of local authorities to support these initiatives. That way, we can quickly enable active travel by our NHS heroes and the key workers who are helping the country through this crisis."

France have offered all cyclists €50 for bike repairs, as the country attempts to keep air pollution levels low once their lockdown ends, while a €300 million scheme will create nine protected cycle highways linking the centre of Paris with key suburbs. It will increase the current 370km of bike paths to 650km.

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